11 June 2021. Over a short time, Spain's industrial ecosystem has leapt to the forefront in the international development of the hyperloop, the new transport method that seeks to achieve speeds faster than commuter aircraft, with high energy efficiency and no direct emissions.
Spain is one of the world's most experienced countries in the field of rail transport and infrastructure, and especially high-speed rail. The Madrid-Seville high-speed train was one of the first high-speed lines built in Europe, marking the start of a process that would see Spain become the country in the world with the second longest high-speed rail network built, only behind China. Today, Renfe, Spain's national operator, is turning 80, and Spanish consortia have gone international, winning large contracts abroad, such as the Medina-Mecca high-speed line, or the one between Dallas and Houston, which are in turn contributing to the socio-economic development and cohesion of the national territory.
With the ambitious commitments of countries to mitigate the effects of climate change as soon as possible, the creation of increasingly faster and sustainable transport systems has become a high priority on the European agenda. Hyperloop has emerged as an interesting solution to decarbonise inter-city transport.
Fortunately, initiatives have been developed in Spain that are contributing to its development. These include the Zeleros, Virgin Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies companies, which are behind the project. The development has mobilised numerous companies, institutions, research centres and universities nationwide, such as CIEMAT and the Polytechnic University of Madrid, which has managed to lead "Hypernex", the first European research project on hyperloop promoted by the European Commission.
But technological progress isn't the only thing that matters; in order to develop a new transport method, the industry needs to collaborate with standardisation bodies to come up with technical standards that provide a benchmark and support the development of this new industry.
Accordingly, the Spanish Association for Standardisation, UNE, has been a pioneer in pushing for the world's first Hyperloop Standardisation Committee, which was approved by European countries in 2020 and began work in October in the CEN-CENELEC/JTC 20 "Hyperloop Systems" Committee of the CEN and CENELEC European standardisation bodies.
This European committee is chaired by Spaniard Jaime Tamarit, a railway expert who made key contributions to the interoperability of European railways through the implementation of ERTMS, a successful communication system that allows the interconnection of trains between European countries and has become an international benchmark.
The president of Europe's Hyperloop Standardisation Committee, Jaime Tamarit, notes: "La tecnología de muy alta velocidad propuesta por Hyperloop es un medio de transporte amigable con el medio ambiente que representa el futuro para desplazamientos continentales. Now is the time to do the applied research we need so we can be ready. There are two essential aspects in this phase: a secure system design, and the convergence of various technological proposals that make interoperability possible through the appropriate standardisation process".
At the institutional level, the Centre for Public Works Studies and Experimentation (CEDEX), which is part of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda (MITMA), has shown an interest in this initiative. Jorge Iglesias, who is the Director of the Railway Interoperability Laboratory at CEDEX, has been appointed Chairman of the CTN 326 UNE Hyperloop National Standardisation Committee, which will relay the voice of Spanish industry to Brussels. This committee already has over 20 organisations.
Jorge Iglesias afirma que "el Comité español CTN 326 es el responsable de canalizar nuestra influencia en los estándares europeos claves para garantizar la competitividad de la industria española, así como defender los intereses de dicho sector y poder participar de forma activa en la creación de la normativa que se aplicará en el mercado a medio plazo. A medium term in which Hyperloop will be a sustainable and clean solution".
Finalmente, las plataformas tecnológicas y asociaciones industriales españolas como SEOPAN, MAFEX o la Plataforma de la Construcción Española han incluido a hyperloop de una forma u otra en sus planes, contribuyendo a que cada vez más empresas participen en este proyecto de país y a mantener la posición pionera de España en el desarrollo de este nuevo método de transporte, que a medio plazo, aspira a mejorar de forma sustancial y sobre todo medioambientalmente sostenible, la forma en la que viajamos.
Further information UNE magazine article